Assembling iPads and Mobility in Two Classroom Settings

  • Oda J. HembreEmail author
  • Line Lundvoll Warth
Original research


iPads have become increasingly popular as tools for teaching in early education. With their multifaceted and interactive affordances as handheld and mobile devices, they have been ascribed great potential to change and expand on classroom practice. However, the iPad often becomes just another technology hype in education, and explanations often point to teachers’ and schools’ lack of technical know-how and ability to utilise the devices’ affordances. In this qualitative case study, we explore how teachers organise and practise iPads in two different classrooms. Classroom observations and interviews with the teachers were conducted to enrich our knowledge about the complexities of iPad use in teaching and to strengthen the knowledge of how different settings produce different iPad practices. Using an actor–network theory approach, the study suggests that iPads are not simply put into use, but enacted through fluid, heterogeneous assemblages of human and non-human actors in the classroom. The iPad’s affordances, such as mobility, are performed rather than inherent qualities of the devices themselves, and the classroom becomes a mishmash of fostering and hindering mobile practices.


Educational technology iPads Classroom practice Mobile tools Actor–network theory 



  1. Adams, C. A., & Thompson, T. L. (2011). Interviewing objects: Including educational technologies as qualitative research participants. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 24(6), 733–750.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, C. A., & Thompson, T. L. (2016). Researching a posthuman world: Interviews with digital objects. London, England: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Bigum, C. (2012). Schools and computers: Tales of a digital romance. In L. Rowan & C. Bigum (Eds.), Transformative approaches to new technologies and student diversity in future oriented classrooms: Future proofing education (pp. 15–28). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  4. Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2004). Flexible learning in teacher education: Myths, muddles and models. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 32(3), 213–226.Google Scholar
  5. Brooks, D. C. (2011). Space matters: The impact of formal learning environments on student learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(5), 719–726.Google Scholar
  6. Burnett, C. (2011). The (im)materiality of educational space: Interactions between material, connected and textual dimensions of networked technology use in schools. E-Learning and Digital Media, 8(3), 214–227.Google Scholar
  7. Burnett, C. (2017). The fluid materiality of tablets: Examining ‘the iPad multiple’ in a primary classroom. In C. Burnett, G. Merchant, A. Simpson, & M. Walsh (Eds.), The case of the iPad: Mobile literacies in education (pp. 15–29). Singapore: Springer.Google Scholar
  8. Callaghan, R. (2018). Developing mobile teaching practice: A collaborative exploration process. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 23(2), 331–350.Google Scholar
  9. Callon, M. (2007). Some elements of a sociology of translation: Domestication of the scallops and the fishermen. In K. Asdal, B. Brenna, & I. Moser (Eds.), Technoscience: The politics of interventions (pp. 57–78). Oslo: Unipub.Google Scholar
  10. Chee-Kit, L., Peter, S., BaoHui, Z., Hyo-Jeong, S., Wenli, C., & Lung-Hsiang, W. (2010). Leveraging mobile technology for sustainable seamless learning: A research agenda. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(2), 154–169.Google Scholar
  11. Cho, E., Lee, K., Cherniak, S., & Jung, S. E. (2017). Heterogeneous associations of second-graders’ learning in robotics class. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 22(3), 465–483.Google Scholar
  12. Culén, A. L., Engen, B. K., Gasparini, A., & Herstad, J. (2011). The use of iPad in academic setting: Ownership issues in relation to technology (non)adoption. In Old meets new: Media in educationProceedings of the 61st International Council for Educational Media and the XIII International Symposium on Computers in Education, 2011 (pp. 555–563).Google Scholar
  13. Denzin, N. (1970). The research act in sociology: A theoretical introduction to sociological method. London: Butterworths.Google Scholar
  14. Edwards, R. (2012). (Im)mobilities and (dis)locating practices in cyber-education. In R. Brooks, A. Fuller, & J. L. Waters (Eds.), Changing spaces of education: New perspectives on the nature of learning. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Edwards, S., Nuttall, J., Mantilla, A., Wood, E., & Grieshaber, S. (2015). Digital play: What do early childhood teachers see? In S. Bulfin, N. F. Johnson, & C. Bigum (Eds.), Critical perspectives on technology and education (pp. 69–84). New York: Palgrave Macmillan US.Google Scholar
  16. Falloon, G. (2013). Young students using iPads: App design and content influences on their learning pathways. Computers & Education, 68, 505–521.Google Scholar
  17. Fenton, D. (2017). Recommendations for professional development necessary for iPad integration. Educational Media International, 54(3), 165–184.Google Scholar
  18. Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor–network theory in education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Fisher, B., Lucas, T., & Galstyan, A. (2013). The role of iPads in constructing collaborative learning spaces. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 18(3), 165–178.Google Scholar
  20. Flewitt, R., Messer, D., & Kucirkova, N. (2015). New directions for early literacy in a digital age: The iPad. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 15(3), 289–310.Google Scholar
  21. Gasparini, A., & Culén, A. (2012, September). Acceptance factors: An iPad in classroom ecology. Paper presented at the International conference on E-learning and E-technologies in education (ICEEE). Lodz, Poland.Google Scholar
  22. Gobo, G., & Marciniak, L. T. (2016). What is ethnography? In D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative research (pp. 103–152). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Guðmundsdóttir, G. B., Dalaaker, D., Egeberg, G., Hatlevik, O. E., & Tømte, K. H. (2014). Interactive technology. Traditional practice? Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 1(9), 23–43.Google Scholar
  24. Haßler, B., Major, L., & Hennessy, S. (2016). Tablet use in schools: A critical review of the evidence for learning outcomes. Journal of Computer Assisted learning, 32(2), 139–156.Google Scholar
  25. Helleve, I. (2013). The networked classroom—Socially unconnected. Education Inquiry, 4(2), 395–412.Google Scholar
  26. Hemment, D. (2005). The mobile effect. Convergence, 11(2), 32–40.Google Scholar
  27. Henderson, S., & Yeow, J. (2012). iPad in education: A case study of iPad adoption and use in a primary school. Paper presented at the 45th Hawaii international conference on system science (HICSS). Maui, HI.Google Scholar
  28. Hutchison, A., Beschorner, B., & Schmidt-Crawford, D. (2012). Exploring the use of the iPad for literacy learning. The Reading Teacher, 66(1), 15–23.Google Scholar
  29. Jahnke, I., Bergström, P., Mårell-Olsson, E., Häll, L., & Kumar, S. (2017). Digital didactical designs as research framework: iPad integration in Nordic schools. Computers & Education, 113, 1–15.Google Scholar
  30. Jahnke, I., & Kumar, S. (2014). Digital didactical designs: Teachers’ integration of iPads for learning-centered processes. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 30(3), 81–88.Google Scholar
  31. Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Lang, K. R. (2005). Managing the paradoxes of mobile technology. Information Systems Management, 22(4), 7–23.Google Scholar
  32. Johri, A. (2011). The socio-materiality of learning practices and implications for the field of learning technology. Research in Learning Technology, 19(3), 207–217.Google Scholar
  33. Khlaif, Z. N. (2018). Factors influencing teachers’ attitudes toward mobile technology integration in K-12. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 23(1), 161–175.Google Scholar
  34. Kongsgården, P., & Krumsvik, R. J. (2016). Use of tablets in primary and secondary school—A case study. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 11(04), 248–270.Google Scholar
  35. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor–network theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Law, J. (2002). Objects and Spaces. Theory, Culture & Society, 19(5–6), 91–105.Google Scholar
  37. Law, J., & Mol, A. (2008). The actor-enacted: Cumbrian sheep in 2001. In C. Knappett & L. Malafouris (Eds.), Material agency: Towards a non-anthropocentric approach (pp. 57–77). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  38. Lynch, J., & Redpath, T. (2014). ‘Smart’ technologies in early years literacy education: A meta-narrative of paradigmatic tensions in iPad use in an Australian preparatory classroom. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 14(2), 147–174.Google Scholar
  39. Martin, F., & Ertzberger, J. (2013). Here and now mobile learning: An experimental study on the use of mobile technology. Computers & Education, 68, 76–85.Google Scholar
  40. Mikkelsen, R. (2018). iPad som verktøy i vurdering for læring [iPad as a tool for assessment of learning]. In L. B. Johanson & S. S. Karlsen (Eds.), Restart: Å være digital i skole og utdanning [Restart: To be digital in school and education] (pp. 17–32). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.Google Scholar
  41. Mol, A. (2010). Actor–network theory: Sensitive terms and enduring tensions. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie Sonderheft, 50, 253–269.Google Scholar
  42. Mulcahy, D. (2018). Assembling spaces of learning ‘In’ museums and schools: A practice-based sociomaterial perspective. In R. A. Ellis & P. Goodyear (Eds.), Spaces of teaching and learning: Integrating perspectives on research and practice (pp. 13–29). Singapore: Springer.Google Scholar
  43. Murray, O. T., & Olcese, N. R. (2011). Teaching and learning with iPads, ready or not? TechTrends, 55(6), 42–48.Google Scholar
  44. Neumann, M. M. (2018). Using tablets and apps to enhance emergent literacy skills in young children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 42, 239–246.Google Scholar
  45. Roschelle, J., Rafanan, K., Bhanot, R., Estrella, G., Penuel, B., Nussbaum, M., et al. (2010). Scaffolding group explanation and feedback with handheld technology: Impact on students’ mathematics learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(4), 399–419.Google Scholar
  46. Sandvik, M., Smørdal, O., & Østerud, S. (2012). Exploring iPads in practitioners’ repertoires for language learning and literacy practices in kindergarten. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 7(03), 204–221.Google Scholar
  47. Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: Notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted learning, 26(1), 65–73.Google Scholar
  48. Sørensen, E. (2009). The materiality of learning: Technology and knowledge in educational practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Spiteri, M., & Rundgren, S. N. C. (2018). Literature review on the factors affecting primary teachers’ use of digital technology. Technology, Knowledge and Learning. Google Scholar
  50. Thagaard, T. (2009). Systematikk og innlevelse: En innføring i kvalitativ metode [Systematics and sensitivity: An introduction to qualitative research methods]. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.Google Scholar
  51. Thompson, T. L. (2012). I’m deleting as fast as I can: Negotiating learning practices in cyberspace. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 20(1), 93–112.Google Scholar
  52. Thompson, T. L. (2016). The making of mobilities in online work-learning practices. New Media & Society, 20(3), 1031–1046.Google Scholar
  53. Tondeur, J., De Bruyne, E., Van Den Driessche, M., McKenney, S., & Zandvliet, D. (2015). The physical placement of classroom technology and its influences on educational practices. Cambridge Journal of Education, 45(4), 537–556.Google Scholar
  54. Wang, R., Wiesemes, R., & Gibbons, C. (2012). Developing digital fluency through ubiquitous mobile devices: Findings from a small-scale study. Computers & Education, 58(1), 570–578.Google Scholar
  55. Wright, S., & Parchoma, G. (2011). Technologies for learning? An actor–network theory critique of ‘affordances’ in research on mobile learning. Research in Learning Technology, 19(3), 247–258.Google Scholar
  56. Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUiT, The Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Norwegian Centre for E-health ResearchTromsøNorway

Personalised recommendations